John Gurney
Meister Eckhart and the Predicate of Light
Ed. Wolfgang Görtschacher. May 2019. 32 pp. ISBN-13 978-3-901993-71-8
£6.00 (+ 1.50 p&p), €6.00 (+ 1.50 p&p), US$8.50 (+ 2.50 p&p)
“Twenty years after his death, and meticulously edited by Wolfgang Gortschacher, it is a pleasure to see John Gurney's Meister Eckhart and the Predicate of Light. In fifty-two sonnets, Gurney attempts the seemingly contradictory challenge of translating Eckhart's mystical vision into 'ordinary' language. As often with mystics, the vision is grounded in the real - the "boneyard on a hill", "water, hay or oats" – but "A blueness has arrived in the old wood" of these poems, the strict Shakespearean form helping sustain the order and music of a vision where the "ordinary experiences of life / return" and "something wholly permanent is made". Gurney struggled with this vision throughout his life, and for me most successfully in these moving poems.”
William Bedford

“The title sounds challenging, and in a sense that’s accurate; these sonnets do challenge us, but not in a dry, academic way. The challenge is the one the best poetry has always set: to make sense of the fragments of perception, emotion and thought that compose our lives, through the power of accurate, skilfully shaped language. These are quietly powerful and moving poems.”
Matthew Francis

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Table of Contents

Excerpts from Meister Eckhart and the Predicate of Light

Meister Eckhart and the Predicate of Light

Eckhart's head again. It does not say
if this is intersubjectivity
or fantasy. The element of play
is strong. Restored now by the comedy
of Spring, I listen, find he’s practising
the pleasure of compassion, showing how
this different existence that he brings
is altering perception, as his "now"
negotiates new meaning, explicates
such radical revisions. Through the night
I quiver, stare at trees, their changing states
that glimmer on the hills, these lines of light
that illustrate in blossom, whitened fire,
the unity of nature and desire.

The Aroma

I do not think that time will take away
this fragrance. What still surprises me
is just how fixed it's been throughout the day,
no ghost of an aroma fitfully
arriving then departing. Still it's here.
It spreads along my pen. It sweetens ink,
insists that fresh correlatives appear,
be organized as beauty. Though I think
at times that I exaggerate, that it’s
mere fanciful illusion, time again
that odour overcomes, once more transmits
a foretaste of "ananda" that my brain
part-apprehends, anticipates as bliss,
a blossoming awareness of what Is.

Reviews of Meister Eckhart and the Predicate of Light

"For all the inevitable and inescapable difficulties of expression, there are moments when Gurney fully realizes (poetically speaking) the experience [...]. This posthumous pamphlet (which feels tootrivial a word for such a substantial achievement) certainly has the "metrical fluency" and the unifying of "spiritual idea with concrete referent" which Oxley prasied [in his 1995 anthology Completing the Picture], but it is far from any kind of coldness, since it privileges the heart (or, more precisely, the soul) over the head. A valuable publication of an interesting but largely forgotten poet."

Glyn Pursglove. "Poetry Comment". Acumen 95 (September 2019): 112-126; 121-124.

"it's greatly to the credit of Poetry Salzburg who've published much else of Gurney's poetry that they have published Gurney's sonnet sequence, Meister Eckhart and the Predicate of Light, some nineteen years after the writer's death. [...] The impulse of the whole sequence is one of profound empathy with the natural world, animate and inanimate. [...] The whole of this very moving sequence is studded with precise and evocative writing [...]. There's much to return to in John Gurney’s work and Meister Eckhart and the Predicate of Light is a lovely addition to the poetry of a writer who is neglected too easily."

Ian Pople, "Review". The Manchester Review (April 2020)
Click here to read the full review.

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